The Spanish-era fort, the ruins of a barracks, St. Ann’s Church (built over the site of Mission Santa Gertrudis), Otero Hall and the Rojas House, where the last caretaker of the Presidio lived, until her death in 1989- all comprise Arizona’s first state park: The Presidio of Tubac. Together with Tumacacori Mission, three miles to the southeast, the Presidio tells the story of the Spanish settlement of Pimeria Alta, already home to the Pima and Tohono people, who still live in much of southern Arizona.
I started my visit to the Presidio at St. Ann’s.
The church was built in 1916, over the foundation of Mission Santa Gertrudis, which was established by the Franciscans in 1752. I next wandered around to the Visitors’ Center, and learned of the often sketchy relationship between the conquistadors and the indigenous Pima. When the native people revolted in the mid- 1770’s, the Spanish abandoned the Presidio and withdrew to Tucson.
South of the center, the carefully-arranged outline of the Presidio’s original foundation gives us a fair idea about life in a Spanish barracks, in the long run-up to Mexican independence.
As with any settlement, at least one citizen had the foresight to call for the education of its children. Toribio Otero initiated the mission-based education of Spanish and Indian children alike, when land-grant farmers returned to Tubac in 1789. His descendants secured the first public school in Tubac,and one of Arizona’s first such schools, in 1885.
In the next post, we look at Otero Hall, named for Don Toribio, and Rojas House, which housed a pioneer and caretaker family from 1895-1989.